Why does it seem so difficult for organizations to effect the changes they
need to survive? The easy answer may be that the organization is simply not
ready for it.
Accordingly, when an organization's leaders begin a change project, they must realize that the first thing they must do is make a case for that change. They must not assume for a moment that those whose jobs (and lives) will be affected by the effort will conveniently and effortlessly buy into the need to make the changes. Leaders must convince even those who appear to favor change, for many will not understand the magnitude or the nature of the change under consideration.
Strategic thinking. One integrating management paradigm that enables firms to react as they must to survive and prosper in today's dynamic business environment is strategic thinking. This paradigm continues the work begun with traditional long-range planning that can only be successful in relatively stable environments. Also, strategic thinking accommodates many of the current management concepts, such as learning organizations, total quality management (TQM), decentralization, benchmarking, and reengineering.
Consider strategic thinking as a continuum, which begins with top management's articulation of the firm's vision. The continuum ends when that vision is integrated by the appropriate managers and others into their day-to-day operations.
Vision defines the framework. The framework guides the decisions that will determine both the organization's nature and the direction the organization will take. Vision de-scribes what the organization wants to be. While organizations need everyone rowing in the same direction, they also need everyone rowing in the vision's direction.
Vision formulation. Top management bears the responsibility of formulating the organization's vision and then communicating it to employees. This is not a bottom-up process driven by succeeding levels of management who simply extrapolate their current actvities into the future. Rather, the vision should result from reviewing and questioning the firm's current direction. After review, the company could set forth a future direction, which might diverge from the current path.
Once the vision is formulated, operations will implement it. Operations is the day-to-day planning and decision making which guides the processes of development, manufacturing, marketing, sales, distribution, and servicing the organization's products and services. Operations determines how the organization is run in response to its vision of what it wants to be.
Unfortunately, people usually possess a natural tendency to withhold or modify "bad news" and to enhance and circulate "good news." This tendency is especially true in organizations that punish the bearer of bad news. Any distortion of information makes it more difficult for firms to sense problems quickly and accurately. In these situations, projections are not met, unexpected failures occur, market share declines, and profits decrease.
Ask the Manager
Q: I read with concern your article on diversity ("Diversity: Opportunity or threat to workers?," 5/22/95). Your article should have been titled "How to promote quotas." Aren't racial quotas, what you are actually promoting, detrimental to all parties involved?
A: Somehow, you think I was pushing quotas. To the contrary, the point of my article was to alert readers that workforce diversity--the integration of women and minorities--is happening. Firms should realize that if managed properly, diversity can make their firms even stronger. If managed poorly, it will make their firms weaker.
Q: Could you provide a brief listing of management themes (buzzwords) since the mid-1980's and what new themes may be coming?
A: "Organizational Dynamics," a quarterly review of organizational behavior for professional managers published by the American Management Association (Winter 1996), seems to respond to your question.
"Reflect for a moment on the fundamental ideas that have reshaped the practice of management in just the past ten years. In the mid-1980s, the idea of quality circles gave way to the more potent tenets of total quality management (TQM). TQM, in turn, stimulated techniques for improving the quality of processes--kanban and just-in-time inventory, cycle-time reduction, benchmarking and reengineering.
"Interest in employee involvement, self-directed teams, and high commitment continues to mount."
Watch for an alignment of human resource practices with corporate strategies and core competencies, and employee-corporation partnerships.